A Rant about Katrina

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There's been a lot of talk recently in the forums about Hurricane Katrina. I just wanted to express my frustrations about this disaster.

New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin expressed his frustrations with the Army Corps of Engineers yesterday, in that they hadn't patched up the levees yet. Well, what does he expect? They have no money, no resources, no people. There aren't even enough Black Hawk planes to do both rescues and transport for materials to patch the levees; those that were going to transport materials are now being redirected for rescue (see article linked above). Not to mention that the Corps' federal funding has been cut, again, for the 2006 fiscal year. Indeed, that budget cut made it so that a study specifically dealing with how to prepare for a Cat. 5 hurricane would be scrapped. Good job, government.

The National Guard and the Coast Guard have been dealing as best they can with the disaster.... but they're crippled right now too. Why? Because most of their people, resources, and attention has been focused on Iraq. This is why the National Guard should never have been called out to duty in Iraq - we need them here!

The federal government's just now getting involved. What in the hell were they waiting for? People are dying and New Orleans is destroyed and it didn't have to be this bad if emergency organizations were able to mobilize more quickly, but they can't mobilize any faster because they don't have funding. Not to mention what's happening in Mississippi, cause we don't know - there's been so little communication from that area. Even the mayor of Slidell can't reach anyone outside the town (can't find the link - its somewhere on CNN, though).

This isn't just about the homes and the property damage, either. We will be feeling the economic ramifications of this hurricane for years. New Orleans is the fourth largest port in the world, in terms of raw tonnage. It's not just about the oil (which some people are already saying oil will hit $4 a gallon come this winter). Commodities will skyrocket too.

I know this isn't very cohesive, I just needed to let off some steam and frustration about the ineptitude with which this tradgedy has been handled. And its not the emergency organizations' faults. They simply don't have enough money or federal funding to have plans in place for all of this. Please, donate to the Red Cross, talk to your local emergency charities about what you can do, anything. This isn't just affecting people you don't know. It's affecting your friends, their families, even your webhosting service. It is indeed affecting the entire country.

Half of my entire extended family (my mom's half) is now homeless and unemployed and getting no paychecks. With nothing more than a "you might get to try to retrieve your possessions in a month. Maybe longer. Maybe never." Insurance companies are overwhelmed. Everything in the region is overloaded now.

One of my uncles is in the NOPD, and he's saying that the news reports aren't even coming close to showing just how bad it is there. Martial law was declared yesterday, but that isn't going to make much difference, honestly. The death tolls will be way beyond current estimates; they will probably never truly be able to account for all the deaths, in fact.

I consider myself fortunate that my family all heeded the warnings and fled the region in time. There are far too many who failed to do so, either by choice or lack of options.

I watch the news each day, and it's simply unfathomable. Same feeling I got watching the accounts on the tsunamis, or the massive civilian casualties in Iraq, or the WTC attack, or any other major disaster, natural or manmade. It's just phenomenal, and not in a good way.

And yes, Katerin's right; this is going to have an extreme impact on our nation's morale and economy. Millions of people's lives have been completely uprooted with no idea when they will be able to get their lives put back together.

I don't really have a purpose to any of this, just kind of unloading... It's just been so far beyond surreal the past few days for me.

To some extent I disagree. The fact that so few people have died is a testament to the effectiveness of our disaster planning, response, engineering and building codes. Each and every loss of life is a tragedy and there have been too many from this storm. However, were this almost any other country, I suspect the loss of life would be staggering ... hundreds of thousands perhaps.

The fact is that as much technology as we have, mother nature is still a force that we cannot control ... so we do the best we can, which, thankfully, is better than anybody else can do. The nature of the beast is such that funding will always be inadequate to address a disaster of this proportion.

On your most important comments, I fully agree: this is the time for everyone to give and give generously of their time and money. This is a disaster of epic proportions and every American will be effected. Make your response to this disaster a positive one.

This mirrors what I'm seeing in reports. There are references to stuff that has not been reported, if you listen to interviews. Helo crews that were out Monday night on the coast with IR searchlights, trying to rescue people, but were unwilling to talk about what they saw happening below them, other than the horror they felt (mentioned in an NPR interview by a daytime pilot). One small town with over 100 reported deaths, but similar devastation for 200 miles or so (AP). The pump rate for NO being 1 inch per hour with all pumps working - that's at least 10 days to knock down twenty feet of water, under ideal conditions, which don't exist right now (WWLTV blog, iirc). The likelihood that submerging houses and buildings for ten days will probably render most wooden structures uninhabitable (my worry). The inability to plug the levee breaks, and a third one opening up - what is the general state of the rest of the line? The reports yesterday around mid-day that the entire water supply system was a few feet from inundation, with water rising. (Imagine the effort needed to largely replace the water supply in a major metropolitan area.) The loss of major bridges along I-10. The fact that so much water drained out of Lake Pontchartrain into NO that Slidell, across the lake, actually saw flood waters recede starting yesterday afternoon.

We are getting bits and pieces, but this is the destruction of a major US city. They will move maybe 60K people to Houston...but where will the other 800,000 residents go in the coming months?

And of course the big question...Will we see more of this scale hurricane in the near future, or is this a one-off? Will we watch skyscrapers fall in Miami next year? I sincerely hope not, but I'm not sure we're ready for that, if it happens.

Well, I'm glad you let off some steam in the rant - BECAUSE it will balance out my rant on the other end.

First off, there are PLENTY of Natl Guardsmen around, and resources. The gov't and Red Cross and such have been prepositioned prior to the disaster like NEVER before. Blaming this on a decreased Corp budget (if they did their damn job right and stopped charging so much...up front, they could do a HELLUVA better job, and thats from working with them) - or blaming it on the fed gov't is such a complete copout.

Crippled - I think not, not even close...they have but to call on any state and their Nat'l Guard to help out. There's plenty of love to go around. Iraq plays not one tiny little fraction of a percent in anything to do with this disaster's recovery effort.

Fed gov't not getting involved - HELLO... the President took the extraordinary step of declaring the area a disaster area PRIOR to the hurricane hitting, allowing fed agencies to move and funds to open up...BEFORE...did I mention BEFORE? This doesn't happen btw...

You mentioned the size and scope of New Orleans - fourth largest port in the world - Well, last I checked, if your the fourth largest port in the world, and have oil revenues, you have some coin. The federal gov't is NOT (let me say that again - NOT) responsible for protecting every location, city, house in the US from disaster. FEMA is there to assist, but if I build an city in a bowl below sea level, on a coastline - or for that matter, build a home on the beach anywhere - its not FEMA's responsibility to come up with a plan to keep my stupid ass safe. I advocate that if you build on the coast, guess what - a hurricane will someday smack your ass down. If you build on a faultline, an earthquake will someday smack your ass down. If you build behind a levy on the Mississippi River, the river will someday smack your ass down with a flood. The finger is pointed at you...not the feds, or fema, or the red cross, or anyone else...but you.

I love New Orleans, but you are talking a city paralyzed apparently by corruption and stupidity in terms of long term planning and local government. In the military, you plan for the worst case scenario - yeah, it costs more, but helps you prepare. Apparently, in NO, they recognized the worst case scenario, admitted they dug out a bowl below sea level, and then built levee's to a Cat 3 storm standard. Am I the only one who sees this as a nature's laughter for piss poor planning. What is happening now is what anyone who looked at the levee's and cities plans and had any disaster prep background could forecast to a T.

Now, the mayor is trying to pin it on the feds, or on the corps of engineers, etc...Mayor, look in the mirror. New Orleans has no one to blame but the state of Louisiana and the government of New Orleans. The levee's were topped, and broke...go figure...they weren't designed to hold against a Cat 4 or 5 hurricane. The pumps failed - did you ever think of building them higher up (the generators that is) to avoid them being flooded. Now your pumps are f***ed. Oh, and being in a bowl below the level of the crested lake, guess what, the water is going nowhere. Mayor, you failed - Governor - you should have had the Natl Guard mobilized overnight and had them in evacuating poor and rural areas BEFORE the hurricane arrived.

International community - I say f*** them all from what I've seen. The tsunami killed a heck of a lot more...I give you that - but from a devastation standpoint, and dollar standpoint, you won't be coming far off. AND right now, there are in excess of 1.5 million refugees down south...with NO home to return to. These are the people that I feel for. Where's the might of the world mobilizing with aid and resources to help us out. What I generally see is an "Oh well...its the U.S."

So, rescue personnel - check, water and food nearby - check, gov't aid ready - check, forewarning available - check

What happened here - well, I point first and foremost to the city of New Orleans and its gov't for the past xyz years - you knew what would come, maybe not this year, but someday, and you failed to act. The fault lies solely with you...solely! I have never seen a poorer overall emergency response from a city in my years of life...never. I applaud the individual's busting their butts to help save others out in the flooded city, and I condemn the looters (last I checked, in martial law, can't you just shoot that assholes on the spot and move on?).

Thank you for your time...and God speed the recovery of those damaged cities and states.
This rant has been sponsored by the "Pigpen for mayor" committee

(Please note: I'm still praying for not just our GWJers who have homes and families there, but for everyone down there in the 3 state 'whacked' area...life sucks, and I'm thinking of you, praying for you and the families of those that have died, and hoping things turn out ok in the long run.

There are some very large points you are missing, Pigpen.

1) New Orleans was established hundreds of years before modern weather forcasting.

2) The problem of dealing with a large scale hurricane was well known - it has been for 50 years. Funding has been cut from the Corps for a multitude of factors, and the Federal Government certain took their share this time around.

3) People bitch and moan and complain "Oh, why build a city under sea level" but seem to miss the part where the city keeps their commodities and gas cheap. They'll see this soon enough, because suddenly prices not just on gas, but everything will increase. New Orleans is THE port the US uses to bring in most everything from the Southern Hemisphere. People bitch about the location, but not about the huge economic strength the city has lent this country since we bought it.

4) New Orleans is poor as hell. If you think they have coin to toss around, you are quite mistaken. Industry still hasn't taken off there, and huge parts of the city are impovershed. Storm planning and levee building is costly. The state doesn't have this much money, especially after funds keep getting moved away.

Does Louisiana and New Orleans deserve lots of blame for this? Of course! Could things have been improved had Federal Officials had more foresight? Damn right. When a port supplies a whole country, the Federal government better take notice.

Wow...Pigpen. Deep breath. Let's remember that hundreds, perhaps thousands, have died or been adversely affected here. Including GWJers and their relatives. I don't think I'd be out of line to say that some of your comments were slightly insensitive. I think the point could have been made without the blatant attacks and masqueraded swear words.

-Fan

Pigpen wrote:

International community - I say f*** them all from what I've seen. The tsunami killed a heck of a lot more...I give you that - but from a devastation standpoint, and dollar standpoint, you won't be coming far off. AND right now, there are in excess of 1.5 million refugees down south...with NO home to return to. These are the people that I feel for. Where's the might of the world mobilizing with aid and resources to help us out. What I generally see is an "Oh well...its the U.S."

I've read that our dear friend Hugo Chavez of Venezuela has extended an offer of cheaper gas and free health care to the American poor, including those devestated by Katrina. You know, the guy that good ole' Pat Robertson wanted assassinated? The one the Republicans keep calling a horrible inhumane dictator masked by a faux democracy?

http://www.cnn.com/2005/WORLD/americ...

I can't possibly respond to your entire post, Pigpen. Emotionally, I am too drained to argue these points; its been a long couple of days in Valhalla. Still, I wanted to respond to two points in particular:

Pigpen wrote:

International community - I say f*** them all from what I've seen....Where's the might of the world mobilizing with aid and resources to help us out. What I generally see is an "Oh well...its the U.S."

*edit: LobMob beat me to it.

Pigpen wrote:

I condemn the looters (last I checked, in martial law, can't you just shoot that assholes on the spot and move on?).

New Orleans is in chaos right now. Not all the looters are going after clothes and jewelry. Many are going after baby forumla, diapers, and food. Should we shoot those people breaking into convienence stores to salvage what food they can (peanut butter and bread from a partially submerged store, I believe was how Robear put it in another thread), or people going after neccessities for their children? And if your answer is no, then how do we tell those people apart from those going for the jewelry? People breaking into jewelry stores might be going after the water coolers or the cutting tools. People breaking into clothing stores might be going after fabric to bandage wounds. Looting is chaos, and I don't want to say that every armed gang in NO is only going after Huggies, but there are people with good motives and people with bad. Besides, haven't enough people died? Why would you want to add even more deaths to the rising toll? Shooting looters isn't going to solve anything. It's just going to create even more panic.

As for the rest of your points, DS has answered them very well, I believe.

In the spirit of P&C, I recall that it is the certain officials in the current administration who saw to the dismantling of the Army Corps of Engineers capacities.

Also, not sure how much God is willing to "speed the recovery of those damaged cities and states", assuming that if he does exist, then he (or "He"?) would be the one responsible for the damages in first place.

Fanatka, I have relatives and friends down in New Orleans. If I didn't say it clearly enough, I sympathize with the citizens of all three damaged states, and it pains me to see the damage and destruction that they are now facing. I don't think in any shape/form/fashion I was ragging on the people that live in these places, nor trying to mitigate the damage caused by this storm in terms of personal costs, and I don't just mean in money ways, but lives and hopes and dreams. If I didn't state that, I hope this clears it up. My rant was aimed principally at the inept gov't I see that should have prioritized, and also in response to the original rant that the fed gov't bears a lot of blame for this disaster.

DS - in response

1) New Orleans was established hundreds of years before modern weather forcasting.

Understand that fully, and I'm not saying its bad that it was formed. My main point was that with modern model systems and warning, NO has a lot to answer for...from a city and state gov't level imho.

2) The problem of dealing with a large scale hurricane was well known - it has been for 50 years. Funding has been cut from the Corps for a multitude of factors, and the Federal Government certain took their share this time around.

The Corps has plenty of money, how they spend and utilize it is another factor. I don't see it as a contributing factor here imho.

3) People bitch and moan and complain "Oh, why build a city under sea level" but seem to miss the part where the city keeps their commodities and gas cheap. They'll see this soon enough, because suddenly prices not just on gas, but everything will increase. New Orleans is THE port the US uses to bring in most everything from the Southern Hemisphere. People bitch about the location, but not about the huge economic strength the city has lent this country since we bought it.

No problem with building a city below sea level, nor on a beach, or on an earthquake fault - but when the inevitable happens, while I am very pained and sympathetic at the human misery level, I'm not quite as forgiving of the Billions of tax dollars that have to go into rebuilding the infrastructure.

NO is a great city, and an incredibly important port. Given that, I will concede that the feds should have pushed more for the protection of the city...but if the city refuses to help itself, I can't point the finger of blame mainly at the feds.

4) New Orleans is poor as hell. If you think they have coin to toss around, you are quite mistaken. Industry still hasn't taken off there, and huge parts of the city are impovershed. Storm planning and levee building is costly. The state doesn't have this much money, especially after funds keep getting moved away.

I think NO is poor as hell, but if they had wanted to, they could find the money - I mean, look at the costs...you have a superdome for a football team, but you have no city anymore. The planning is not that costly - trust me...yes, levee building is expensive as hell, but you have to prioritize and find a way to sell projects to the fed gov't and the local taxpayer populace, and that burden rests upon the gov't of NO.

In other words, all valid points, and I don't think I directed my comments at them. I didn't criticize the building of NO, I simply said the city and state gov't failed to be proactive, both with their funds and with selling the importance of the oil production and how important it is to protect the city of NO port. Huge trump cards that I think they squandered.

Gorilla, who do you speak of as to the dismantling of the Army COE...not sure what you imply by this honestly. And note, the Corps did a lot to themselves - they priced themselves out of business, in my mind, with arrogance in many cases.

Fanatka - I don't think DS's points address our rival views. So, look forward to a reply on this.

BTW...anyone see the CNN video where a bunch of trees fell on bourbon street, and these huge oaks crushed everything around, except for one statue of Jesus, undamaged standing in the middle of a half dozen trees.

*EDIT* and I do find Chavez' offer amusing...lol

I've read that our dear friend Hugo Chavez of Venezuela has extended an offer of cheaper gas and free health care to the American poor, including those devestated by Katrina. You know, the guy that good ole' Pat Robertson wanted assassinated? The one the Republicans keep calling a horrible inhumane dictator masked by a faux democracy?

Empty words. Believing Chavez is like taking Darth Vader's hand in the belief that you will rule the galaxy side by side in peace and prosperity.

I wanted to add that this evacuation of the city was the most succesful one, ever. Over the last five to ten years, there have been only a half dozen evacs...all of them voluntary. Each time, response and management has improved greatly. If not for the trials and errors, and the subsequent planning after storms like Georges, this would have been ever worse.

The city did a lot of things right. So did the Feds. The plan to defend the city against a catagory 5 was shelved when this administration cut the funding. That's plenty to complain about right there. NO is instrumental to the functioning of our economy. The economy for the whole country, that is. A desire for stability on that front is more then worthy of Federal funds, much more so then then international warfare or porky transportation bills. When the economy starts to recede again, I only hope those who lacked the foresight to work against this hang their heads in shame.

However, I need to withdraw; I am far too personally involved in this to make cohesive arguments.

DS, your arguments are completely valid, so I hope you don't see me as making personal attacks. I just tend to lay more blame on the state gov't than the fed in this case.

I will give you that utilizing fed funds to match state funds would have been a smarter move than congressional pork (which I abhor) or even the war on Iraq...I just didn't see the critical comments above linkage as valid. Does that make sense?

I just don't think NO fought for fed funds for all the projects they needed. For instance, why didn't they jack up all the port fees and gas selling prices - with the intent of funding the projects themselves. Then, as the fed's shivered about that, maybe they would have ponied up fees.

On the side note, btw...the evacuation of NO was pretty impressive - but I do condemn the state gov't not mobilizing the guard early to go into poor communities, especially low lying ones and forcibly evacuate citizens.

OH - and failed to respond to looting. I condemn it - would I prob be one if I didn't have any food or water...yeah...but I still condemn looting and the anarchy that follows. See a looter, shoot a looter would be my motto (ok...I'd probably target only the males...but that's just me)

Thanks for the link - a good read. But you are still talking about a 270 million budget, and if the corp actually used a concept called efficiency, they'd easily have plenty for their construction projects. They basically bill in advance, then deliver late and behind schedule. I support the cut, and think the city could utilize some of its own budget to make it up, with the money going to local contracting firms that will do a better and cheaper job. Just my two cents btw.

Guess its all moot now - the rebuilding effort will pull in billions now - lets just hope they use the worst case scenario this time around.

Hey! I linked that first! You stole my link, you damn, dirty ape!

My thanks for the link was non specific It goes to both of you for your edumatification efforts for this GOP Stormtrooper...

Doesn't change the fact that he's a damn, dirty ape!

...but I do condemn the state gov't not mobilizing the guard early to go into poor communities, especially low lying ones and forcibly evacuate citizens.

Expensive, impractical, and unpopular. This scenario is markedly different than simple fire or flood duty. How many troops are we talking here? A brigade would probably be insufficient for the job. And what really could the Guard do? Very few units are MP's or have had MP training or civil disturbance/crowd control training, let alone cordon and search. Would these soldiers be armed? What would the ROE be? The National Guard are soldiers, not cops. Would they have police liasons or would they be operating independently? Under what authority would the Guard evacuate (evict?) civilians of the United States? The amount of money it would take to mobilize that number of Guardsmen is staggering and far more than a state could muster, IMO. I believe it's a bit more complex than a simple order from the governer. The legalities of the situation would probably take a month to analyze.
And finally, how would you feel when a Guardsmen came to your door, bearing arms and told you you will leave?

EDIT: From other thread, continuing to beat the dead horse:

"Didn't mean to go to P&C country there Pigpen.

But I remember from when I lived in NO, every hurricane season or so, there would be a special on the local channels about what the city would do when the big one came. Experts would say that even though the city had not been hit for 100 years, one day a big storm would score a direct hit. It would be a disaster of Biblical proportions.

I stand by my San Fran analogy.

The key is the legendarily incompetent local government, and human nature. People have been building in places they have no business building for the last 50 years. That's why the old city is not flooded at all. It's above sea level."

EDIT v2: As I've said elsewhere, the city of NO evacuation plan was simple: poor people drown. Then they loot. But to be fair, if the city of NO truly prepared for the worst-case scenario every time a storm headed their way it would be continual chaos from June-October EVERY YEAR.

Pigpen wrote:

BTW...anyone see the CNN video where a bunch of trees fell on bourbon street, and these huge oaks crushed everything around, except for one statue of Jesus, undamaged standing in the middle of a half dozen trees.

Actually, the statue suffered slight damage to one of the hands. Jesus' thumb and index finger were broken off. Must have been a neat sight, though.

Larsson - I think your San Fran analogy was the simple way of saying what I said way above...its spot on

And yeah Lobo...its a neat little video...gave me goosebumps amid the depressing devastation that the city has seen. I feel more sorry for the residents of the Big Easy as every hour passes. I think for 75% of the city, I don't think they'll get into the city for over a month at the earliest.

I disagree with your comments Reaper - an order from the governor would do quite fine...he/she owns them. As to forcibly evicting...no...but going around explaining to people...well, I'd wager that might get another 20% of those that stayed to at least leave, and that would help. It would also, in theory help to give the impression that martial law is real, and keep some of the looting down.

As to the comment what would I do if a

Guardsmen came to your door, bearing arms and told you you will leave?

Well, my response would not be pretty, but unless I had the drop on him...odds are I'd end up doing it...lol.

Actually, the statue suffered slight damage to one of the hands. Jesus' thumb and index finger were broken off.

People see what they want to see. Anyway, I find the idea that God allowed 400 miles of coastline to be crushed, drowned and burned, but guarded a single statue on a notorious street in New Orleans, to be seriously depressing. I can't think of that as a good thing. Rather the opposite. But then, for me, I don't have to believe that this is an act of commission or omission by anything. It's weather.

I disagree with your comments Reaper - an order from the governor would do quite fine...he/she owns them. As to forcibly evicting...no...but going around explaining to people...well, I'd wager that might get another 20% of those that stayed to at least leave, and that would help. It would also, in theory help to give the impression that martial law is real, and keep some of the looting down.

The legality of that statement is yet to be decided. This BRAC process is a scary business from my point of view. The Pentagon can just decide to willy-nilly take away the defensive/offensive capabilities of states? And indeed, when the state's armed forces can be called away for federal missions, can you really say the governer owns them?

And why would the Guard be required to go around and ask/explain people to leave? You have to pay these soldiers and it's not cheap to do that. It's far easier and cheaper to ask volunteers to do it.

Martial law is only real if the soldiers have loaded weapons and the legal right to use them.

(It should be noted that I'm all about the Guard. Obviously. I just think the public at large needs to realize the Guard isn't a super-do-it-all force. Guardsmen are trained for their MOS... and little else as far as civil matters are concerned.)

Katrin: sorry, dear. I said that others have pointed that above already!

Besides, I am a clean ape. As in so fresh, so clean, even.

Robear wrote:

People see what they want to see. Anyway, I find the idea that God allowed 400 miles of coastline to be crushed, drowned and burned, but guarded a single statue on a notorious street in New Orleans, to be seriously depressing. I can't think of that as a good thing. Rather the opposite.

Exactly. One would think that the God who takes care of Himself alone amid biblical grief sort of sends a mixed message.

Lobo wrote:
Pigpen wrote:

BTW...anyone see the CNN video where a bunch of trees fell on bourbon street, and these huge oaks crushed everything around, except for one statue of Jesus, undamaged standing in the middle of a half dozen trees.

Actually, the statue suffered slight damage to one of the hands. Jesus' thumb and index finger were broken off. Must have been a neat sight, though.

That's only because it's evil to do this...

IMAGE(http://essteeyou.com/media/images/BuddyChrist.jpg)

Pigpen wrote:

..these huge oaks crushed everything around, except for one statue of Jesus, undamaged standing in the middle of a half dozen trees.

People definitely see what they want to see. Some would say that it's God telling us he's watching out for us. Some would say it's god signing his name to the catastrophe.
"Jesus wuz here"

Ah buddy Jesus, where have you gone...

People definately see what they want to see...in this case, to some, its the only ray of hope in a dismal situation.

And from a biblical perspective, next to Las Vegas, I'd say that God probably has New Orleans and bourbon street (which I love) down for a good 40 day/40 night cleansing...trust me on that one...so don't read too much into him letting nature cleanse the city, aka Batman Begins style.

Reaper, I agree with you on the BRAC stuff, and I'm very leery of how the fed govt is now playing all the cards wrt guardsmen. I believe that the Guard, in extreme national emergencies can be called up by the President, but flatout think that the guard belongs to the governors...NOT the president!

And not saying they are a catch all option, but in this case, the Guard taking on martial law responsibility and disaster response is completely appropriate in my view.

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